A Modest Proposal and Why I Hate the Phrase “外國人”. Better to call us “monkeys”.

7 thoughts on “A Modest Proposal and Why I Hate the Phrase “外國人”. Better to call us “monkeys”.”

  1. Today I was explaining to a classmate why I don’t want to stay in Taiwan and look for a job, like she does (she’s Japanese, explains it all…). And my main reasons were not the weather, the different logic, the food (ok, it annoys me, but if I had my own kitchen, that problem would be solved) or the clothes and shoes that don’t fit me…the thing that I can’t stand most is, that no matter how long I stay here, I’ll always be a waiguoren and an attraction (sometimes welcome, sometimes not at all)! Just because of the way I look, there will always be those staring, glancing, mumbling, whispering people, who often take pictures even without asking! It’s annoying and tiring and soon I will just wait for a moment to run away… it’s sad, there are so many things I like here, but after almost a year now, I am totally exhausted. 恭喜.


  2. It’s funny, when I was asked to pose for a photo, I took it as a compliment. There is a cultural difference here, Taiwanese like to take photos all the time everywhere, it’s like a nation of photographers and bloggers 🙂 I just try to take these things easy. I love Taiwan and hope to stay there permanently 🙂 And if I’m called waiguoren, so be it, I don’t mind. I am different. I’m blonde, I’m European and I’m proud of that. I can’t expect moving to another country and already being seen as one of their own. That’s especially the case, if it’s a country like Taiwan with such a complicated political situation and a history full of difficult changes. Besides, I think there is hope, Taiwan opened up to foreigners merely for a decade and many things have changed and are changing. You need patience. In 10 or 20 years I think foreigners will be accepted as part of the Taiwanese society. I am hopeful.


    1. Hi Kafka,

      I agree with you in most respects. My intention in moving to Taiwan was never to “go native”–I am fairly solid in my identity as an American. And, yes, another few decades down the road and we may be witness to a very different culture here. Have to say though, I think you are probably one of the few foreigners who truly enjoys getting their photo taken all the time. It didn’t bother me at first, but twenty times later…

      My main motivation in writing the article, however, is simply to seek an answer to *why* people in Taiwan want to take pictures with foreigners. Why is it “cool”? Is it cool? Is it simply mere curiosity? Obviously people here love to take pictures—food, themselves, cute little fluffy animals are all popular subject matter. But *why* are foreigners, too, so sought out?

      Now, having returned from the Philippines just a few days ago I am even more curious. Sure, people there stare at you nearly just as much as in any Asian country, but they would never ask to take a picture with you. Funnily enough, the one time I was asked to take a picture, the boy just wanted the image to be of himself and his fish. I was more than happy to do that!


  3. I’m a blonde haired and blue eyed American and I’ve yet to be asked to have my picture taken… am I ugly?! hahaha

    I can see where your frustration comes from. I’ve only been here a week, but I’m sure I’ll run into what you’re talking about sooner or later.. I was kind of expecting it…


  4. I really love your blog! Your ideas remind me exactly of the rants between my friends and I. I’m a student now in NTU; but I’ve lived in Tainan and Kaohsiung before as well. The only extra info I can offer is that living in the south is 10x worse with the picture taken, 外國人/美國人(since every white person is American, right)shouting。Though I’ve noticed it’s worse if you’re female.


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